Saturday, December 13, 2014

Painted Papers: Rubber Cement Resist

One of the first posts I pinned to my "Painting Inspirations, Tutorials, and Projects" Pinterest board was an abstract watercolor tutorial from Grow Creative.  I have been wanting to try Elise's technique for months, and now that I've done it, I don't think I can stop!
The results are absolutely beautiful, and their map-like-qualities appeal greatly to the arty cartophile in me!  (I am borrowing the term "arty cartophile" from Jill K. Berry and her book Personal Geographies, which I was inspired to pull off the bookshelf after creating these rubber cement resist watercolor paintings.)

I followed Elise's technique pretty much exactly, so you can read her blog post for her directions, but I also took photos of each step of the process as I carried it out, so I thought I would share them with you here:

First, I used blue painter's tape to secure my 9x12 cold-press watercolor paper to a piece of palette paper on my work space.  (I tried low-tack artist's tape first, and too much watercolor paint seeped underneath it.  The blue painter's tape left a gorgeous crisp edge.)
Next, I dribbled rubber cement over the watercolor paper.  There is no planning, just random dripping in all different directions.
Then, I spent a little time with my embossing tool, speeding up the drying process for the rubber cement.  This is not a task for the impatient!  I get into a kind of trance, watching the rubber cement boil, bubble, pop, and dry.
Once the rubber cement is dry, the paper is ready for its first application of watercolor paint.  For this particular piece, I used Reeves tube watercolors in "Lemon Yellow."
In some of my first pieces, I did a watercolor wash across the entire paper.  For the example photographed here, I applied this first layer of watercolor in just some portions of the paper, leaving other parts white.
The drying process for the watercolor paint is much faster than for the rubber cement!
Now technically, you are supposed to apply more rubber cement, but I actually forgot, and put on a different color of watercolor.  This time is was Reeves tube paint in basic "orange."  I supplemented with another shade of orange from a set of pan watercolors.
I used the orange paint to fill in some of those white spaces I left when I applied the Lemon Yellow.
 After a bit more drying with the heating tool, I applied more random rubber cement.
More drying--which meant more time mesmerized by bubbling rubber cement.  
At this point it was time for my final color--Reeves tube watercolor in "Magenta."  Gorgeous!
After one final drying session with the embossing tool, I was ready to pull back the painter's tape and enjoy the crisp edge along the perimeter of my watercolor paper.
The next step is to use the pads of my fingers to rub away all of the rubber cement that has been resisting various layers of watercolor paint.  The rubber cement comes away in balls and crumbs, and leaves behind the wonderful pathways that give the art such a map-like quality.
When all the rubber cement has been rubbed away...voila!
Now, I think this piece looks beautiful, and am tempted to leave it as it is, but there is a final step that makes it look even more beautiful.  Using a fine-tipped black Sharpie pen, I outline various pathways around the piece.  (I tried Microns, but the "tooth" of the watercolor paper really does them in.)  I start with all of the white pathways, and usually move on to the secondary colors, like yellow in this piece.
When I was finished deciding which areas to outline in black, I had my finished piece:
 I think I could sit around and look at it all day!  I really love the results of this technique.
 What do you think?
This was my fourth 9x12 art piece using the rubber cement resist technique.  Here are the earlier ones I created:
 These first two have a similar color combination, with more "lake blue" in the first one.
I like how they look when I photograph them without the white perimeter:
I'm showing these in backwards order, because this last one I am showing you is the first one I tried.  Instead of using rubber cement, I used Art Maskoid, which is the same as frisket.  But my bottle was almost completely dried up so I was kind of smearing sticky frisket across the page.  At first, I thought the result looked kind of terrible, but it has grown on me, and looks like a map of some archipelago far out in the ocean.  (You can also see how the artist's tape didn't give as clean of an edge as the painter's tape does.)
Stay tuned, because in an upcoming post I will share some pretty cards I have made using this same rubber cement resist technique! 


12 comments:

Anne said...


thanks for the tutorial -- I'm thinking about trying some small ones for Christmas package name tags. You used great colors!

Janet said...

I love this!! I'm getting some rubber cement tomorrow and giving this a try. Thanks so much for the excellent tutorial and photos of your progress. I can't wait to get started.

Ashley Calder said...

Really cool technique! I think your finished pieces have a sort of dreamy comic book look! :)

FarStarr said...

I love this technique too. I am amazed how much I love the outlining every time I see it!

PamelaArtsinSF said...

Wow! How lovely -- thanks for sharing both the how-to link and your step-by-step photos. I just might have to give this a try.

Sue said...

Cool. I especially like the black outline with the Sharpie to add to the piece. Makes things pop more.

iHanna said...

Love it!

Caatje said...

This is so stunningly beautiful! I love it, especially with the black outlines. I am so going to try this, these would make beautiful sheets to turn into journal pages. I am just smitten. ;-)

Parabolic Muse said...

Okay, THIS is so cool! When I do start this I'm glad I got your tutorial because I don't think I'd have done it right!
Thank you.

Susan Radle said...

This is a great tutorial with a fantastic outcome! The photos and descriptions were very well done. Keep up the good work!

Diane Baker-Williams said...

I am excited to try this technique! Going to the store today to find some rubber cement. Thank you for the tutorial and the tips.

Anita said...

Love this now I have to find my blue tape and rubber cement and get my water colors and paper ready to play.